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Not just a grocery store, but an all-in-one online to offline lifestyle new retail concept
I wrote about visiting Honestbee last year, where I was exposed to a very futuristic retail concept of cashless payments, info on the products I buy at my fingertips, and automated delivery systems. All these are what we come to know of as the new retail in China concept. Some say it was actually a direct copy of Fresh Hippo, or more affectionately known as Hema 盒马鲜生.
Our team was brought to experience the inner workings of Hema which really gave us great insights on what kind of implementations are we looking at if we are to do so in our local home soil and how do we bring back the new retail of China back to Malaysia.
So what makes Hema, one of the top O2O (Online to Offline) retail outlet in China? Their promise of :
“Delivery is guaranteed for 30 minutes after an order has been placed if the customer lives within a 3km radius of a Hema store.”
This is only possible with their extensive delivery management system. I was super amazed when I saw that they built an entire underground tunnel for delivery bikes to enter their order processing facility!
The underground management facility will then standby to pick up goods sent in from the conveyor belts of Hema.
Each delivery bags found scattered within Hema have different colors, where Hema staff will actually use a portable device to receive e-commerce orders. These staff will then take relevant goods to put into the dedicated colored bags. Each colored bag will have its own unique food category for identification purpose.
Once the bags get hooked onto the conveyor belt, the conveyor would have sensors to detect the bar-codes of the hangars. These will then place the items and bags in its appropriate path en-route to the delivery management facility.
In Hema, everything is scanable! As long as there is a QR code, you can use it predominantly to get food item info on it.
What is even more crazy, is through the tracking of their produce section, in particular the meats!
In this interactive video timeline of your meat, you can actually watch videos of it when it was still alive, the day it was born, the condition in which it was bred, the day it hit maturity, and the day it was slaughtered.
Kinda sad! But lets view this technology with an open mind instead! This powerful tracking system can definitely benefit many other scenarios in the future.
This one really amazed me too! Being a marketer, it has always been a challenge to identify the relevant target audience for certain products. However how Hema did it was brilliant. On each of their racks, they have this digital screen. This digital screen is used to influence peoples buying decision, and it is not through ads!
Compared to an advertisement, a recommendation screen from your fellow peer group would give you better confidence in terms of making a decision on a totally new brand or totally new product! So Hema captures all this during the transaction phase, where these data is then used to aid your purchasing decision.
The amount of seafood readily available in Hema is insane! All kinds of rare seafood like the Alaskan King Crab is also readily available. What is unique to this experience, is the ability to instantly bring it to the chef’s kitchen to have it prepared and cooked for you right on the spot!
Apart from this, it was also surprising to find out that the food court within Hema is also operated on a profit sharing basis with free rental. However the condition for this, would be having the F&B outlets to maintain their quality + customer satisfaction credibility. All this is tracked with again, data!
The transaction process of Hema was also rather amusing, as most of the Chinese people there have already embraced facial recognition to enable their payments.
This really take things to the next level as the payment process does not involve any external involvement at all. No QR codes, no hand-phones, no credit cards, no cash. Just your face, and your goods! Well of course with automatic deductions from your e-wallet via the back-end system.
What was really insightful for us in this session was the thorough explanation of each working feature within the Hema ecosystem. Technologies like these have become common in China, however it will still be considered as brand new concepts to many parts in Malaysia. Most Malaysians will still feel super surprised when they are exposed to tech like these!
However what is still hindering local companies to adopt new retail tech would be highly related to cost. Most companies are still just not willing to spend the appropriate amounts to kick-start these kind of projects, as they would usually feel the ROI is not immediately obtainable.
One last interesting fact that I found out from Hema was the calculation of square meters within your retail outlet. Hema actually calculate online + offline sales combined for ROI calculation purposes. This would actually put their earnings per square meter to be much more higher than a traditional retailer!
The new retail of China can only be achieved back home with effective product and retail management strategies, where everything is seamless towards the future. Only then, can we see a truly digitized economy ahead!
To read more on what happened along the journey thus far :